Getting Started: Choosing your own target


After you've captured some images with the Faulkes Telescope, no doubt you will want to get more! There are so many different types of object you can observe; galaxies, stars, comets, asteroids, star clusters... The good thing with the Faulkes telescopes is that you can choose exactly what object you want to get images of, so that you can do a wide range of activities and projects with them.

In the previous guide, we showed you how to observe one of the recommended objects. But what if you want to observe something that isn't in that list? Well, let's look at how you can choose your own object to observe.


1) Begin by working through steps 1-5 in Guide 2. This will show you how to book a timeslot and begin to create an observation with the telescope. After completing step 5, you should see the following window:


This is where we choose which object or area of the sky we would like to observe. On the right hand side is a list of suggested objects. But we're going to choose our own object to look at. To do this you have two possible options.

First, you can type in the name of an object in the 'Target Name' box at the top of the window. The system will then try to find the object you have typed in from an online catalogue of objects. If it finds the object, it will insert the correct Right Ascension and Declination for you. These two values are the position or coordinates of the object on the sky. You can think of them as being like Latitude and Longitude. Try typing in 'Andromeda' in to the Target Name box. This will fill in the details of the nearby Andromeda galaxy.

The second option is to insert the Right Ascension and Declination ourselves. This is useful if the object we want to look at isn't in the online catalogue, or if you want to look at a specific area of the sky.


2) Next we must choose which filters to use. The Faulkes Telescopes don't work like our eyes do - they only see one colour when they look at an object. The filter decides which colour of the object the telescope should observe. By default, the telescope will observe with 3 filters: R, B and V, which roughly correlate to Red, Blue and Green. If we want to see what the object looks like in full colour, we can combine the three filter images together later (which we will teach you in a later guide).

If you untick the '3 colour images' checkbox you can select which filters you want to use. There are lot's of possible filters, giving you lot's of options. If you're unsure which filters to use, we recommend keeping the '3 colour images' checked and the telescope will return three B, V and R images.


3) The final option is the exposure time. This determines how long the telescope will 'stare' at an object for. The telescopes takes images using a CCD, just like your digital camera does. The longer the light from an object hits the CCD, the brighter it appears in the final image. The exposure time is how long we let the light from an object hit the CCD. You might therefore think that the longer the exposure time the better, as the object will be easier to see, but unfortuantely at some point CCDs become 'saturated' meaning they stop recording the light hitting them, which can ruin your image. It's therefore quite important you have a good estimate of the exposure time you need. 

A guide to what exposure time to use can be found on page 8-9 in the following document: 


4) Once you are happy with these inputs, you can click 'Add' as you did before to lock in your observations. Once you are comfortable with setting up observations, you will undoubtedly want to choose specific objects to obseve. The steps above will give you all the information you need to be able to do this. 

If you want suggestions of objects to observe, check out our Exciting Targets list, which is regularly updated with current topical objects to observe. 



Next: Guide 4 - Using ODIN